I spent a little while this morning editing "Flowers and Branches" into something that looked more like an essay, less like a poem. It's a little of both, to be honest. Tightened it up a bit too. I think I'm going to send it out. In case you missed it, here it is again. I don't think little lit mags are going to care that it appeared in my journal. Thanks to Karen, who reminded me how much I like this piece.
Flowers and BranchesIt started on the worst kind of day, the kind of day when your boots pinch and your head aches and there's an itch on your back just where you can't reach. I had no one to scratch it. He was there and I was here and it was my own choice so I couldn't exactly complain but I certainly wasn't happy. He had done something, I can't remember what, to make it worse instead of making it better, and I just hurt. So I asked him to send me flowers. Please. He sounded startled but agreed and that was a small victory though bitter too. Nine years together and only recently had he decided that it would be acceptable to give me flowers. As long as I didn't take them the wrong way.
He had given me flowers twice at that point. Firstly: when I was terribly sick, at the instigation of our old lover who was visiting town. She chose them, orange mums. Secondly: when we were buying groceries at the small gourmet store and I asked him to buy me some flowers. He agreed. I chose them, yellow daffodils. He did pay both times, so technically they were from him. More importantly, he agreed they were from him. Baby steps.
These flowers that I asked to be sent to me were another baby step. He agreed. Casually, and I wasn't sure that he would remember. When days went by with no sign of them I assumed that he had forgotten. He didn't often forget things but sometimes he forgot quite important things. Then a message on my machine said that they had tried to deliver flowers but I hadn't been home. Then three days of missed messages and missed delivery attempts and after three days of this the flowers, all the flowers, started to feel like they were maybe more trouble than they were worth. He was apologetic on the phone, though he really had no control over the situation.
Finally they arrived, only two days before I was leaving town, and so there was little time to enjoy them. Lilies, little red berries, tall elegant dry branches. They were rather impressive, actually, and he had chosen them himself, or at least something like them. The web page warned him that they did not guarantee the same flowers would be delivered. I determined to enjoy them, despite everything, and for two days I took very deliberate pleasure in my flowers. Then I left. I thought about throwing them out before leaving. One of the lilies was already drooping, and they would be sad and dead by the time I returned three weeks later. Expecting to be depressed, it didn't seem wise to leave them to rot and greet me with foul scent and mold on my return. But they were still beautiful. I left them in the vase.
One week with him. A few days with an old lover. A little more than a week with my family. A miserable cold. When I took the taxi back from the airport I wanted nothing more than to be home, even though being home meant being alone again. I unlocked the door, turned on the light, climbed the stairs. and at the top of the stairs, the dining room, and in that room, the dining table, and on that table, the vase of flowers. The lilies had gone dry as dust, and crumbled to the touch; the red berries were dry and hollow. There was no scent. but the tall thin branches had put out fresh leaves, pale and green and very much alive. Once I had cleared away the dust and rubbish, they were lovely.
My first thought was that I should make a poem about these branches, that they were just too good a metaphor to waste. Something about not giving up, about how you think something's dead, but if you just hang in there and clear away the old rubbish, you may find something beautiful, you know the routine -- squeezed into a few lines, some good clean words, maybe some rhymes. But that was no good, really.
It was simpler than that in the end (though longer, too). Those branches, those leaves -- that is how I am, when I think of him. He is green leaves within me. I live in the heart of winter, and despite everything, he is the spring.